Since 1993, we have worked with and heard from thousands of people who have survived non-State torture. This is a selection of their voices.

Elizabeth Gordon

Elizabeth Gordon, Torture in the Home, 2017

I made this painting in November 2016 in response to a FiliArt exhibition on the theme of refuge. I have felt invisibilised without care or support, social or legal redress or justice because torture that happens in the home and other private places isn’t generally recognised.

I shone a torch through the window I drew on the canvas of my painting to shine a light on a torture ordeal I endured in my childhood. Thank you Jeanne and Linda for shining your goodness lights to support me and in feminist human rights activism towards the recognition of non-State torture. I see more in colour now and see nature’s beauty which is amazing!

Jeanette Westbrook

In 2004, we presented a large collection of victim testimony to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Those submissions are included in this section. And the following three statements are from Canadian women who participated in our Reproductive Harms Survey, 2007.

Lynne's Testimony

Lynne realized her husband spent a year grooming her for marriage, then immediately after their wedding he became a violent spouse. Six months later, remaining hopeful that her marriage would work out, Lynne boarded a plane with her husband. Immediately on arrival in Toronto they were met by three of his friends whom she did not know. Lynne states her husband and his friends held her captive, in a windowless room, for four and one-half years.

First they gang raped her to “break me in.” Then “sold my body” to client-perpetrators who raped and tortured her. Terrified, Lynne described the humiliation of being stripped naked, and how penises and semen suffocated her and violated every orifice of her body. She told of being held under-water until she almost drowned, of pliers applied to her nipples, of being whipped with the looped wires of clothes hangers, of being drugged, and forced to cut her-Self with a razor blade for the perpetrator-client’s sadistic pleasure. Starved, handcuffed to a radiator, beaten, whipped, kicked, left without warmth, Lynne disclosed she suffered five pregnancies and violent forced abortions. They beat the soles of her feet and after they finished Lynne described how she tried to rub the pain away. Not wanting Lynne to sooth her-Self they beat her more.

Guns were used to threaten her life, to ‘play’ Russian roulette and Lynne discussed that she “can still hear the three clicks ... click ... clicks in my ear.” Blood was everywhere when she was gang raped with a knife, horrifying Lynne, forcing her “out-of-my-body.”

Lynne says she suddenly found herself “looking down at that person – but that person was me!” Describing how her husband especially enjoyed sodomizing her with a wine bottle that made her hemorrhage, Lynne used to wonder if she would bleed to death,

“I’d wonder how much blood I’d have to lose before I’d die.”

Seeking the pleasure high he experienced every time his torturing created terror in her eyes, Lynne explained her husband would contemptuously utter,

“Look at me bitch; I like to see the terror in your eyes.” Called bitch, slut, and whore, Lynne was named “piece of meat.” She says she was never called Lynne again ... she was always “piece of meat.” Lynne ‘disappeared’ in Canada for four and one-half years before ‘escaping’ and returning home she thought about suicide for about six months.

Sara's Testimony

Sara described being electric shocked, beaten, cut, and burned with cigarettes and candles, and having hot light bulbs forced into her vagina for more times than she can record. Always terrified, she reported being forced to swallow drugs that left her paralyzed, family/group raped, and tortured. Caged, suspended by her limbs with a looped cord around her neck, and stretched on a torture rack in the little room in her family’s basement, Sara also speaks of being forced to cut herself and forced to endure bestiality.

Sara states her “blood was spilled so many times.” Surviving pregnancies that were forcedly and violently aborted – “stick aborted”– and destroyed in horrific ways; Sara says she was forced to swallow some pieces of tissue to make her feel extremely shameful and guilty so that she “would never tell.” Forced into harming and killing animals under the threat of or actually being electric shocked Sara also told of becoming unconscious when held under water, when a plastic bag was tied over her head, and when she was beaten mercilessly. Sara remembers the repetitive phrase, “Bring her back when you’re done,” that her father uttered to the perpetrator-clients he rented her out to. And she asked,

“Did you know that some just rent you for torturing?”

Forced into participating in homemade pornography, Sara explained she was also forced to swallow blood, pee and poop and be smeared with it. She says,

“These are some of the tortures that forced her up onto the ceiling, “out-of-my-body.”

This is how she survived. Forced to endure the torturer’s humiliating laughter, their words “if you live to tell no one will believe you” kept Sara silent until she could no longer function. Sara says,

“It took me many years to understand that my 35 years of captivity, abuse, torture, and trafficking, beginning when I was an infant, was not normal.”

Some of the perpetrators I did not know, or only recognized. Also, at different points in time I attempted to reveal what was happening to me to doctors and nurses in hospitals and wasn’t believed.